COVID-19 provides a boom and a bust for South Okanagan snowbird market | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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COVID-19 provides a boom and a bust for South Okanagan snowbird market

COVID-19 border restrictions have South Okanagan RV parks filled to the brim this winter, but travel restrictions have resulted in vacancies in other accommodations.
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January 13, 2021 - 6:30 AM

COVID-19 restrictions are turning out to be a mixed blessing for the economy of the South Okanagan this winter as RV parks boom.

Other types of accommodation aren't faring as well, however.

Oliver’s Desert Gem RV Resort owner Debbie Stockley says her RV park is generally pretty busy, but this year has been exceptional.

“I’ve got million dollar rigs in here who decided they’re staying here and didn’t go south this year,” she says.

The Canada-U.S. border closed to non-essential travel in March 2020, and remains closed as COVID-19 cases climb in most regions of North America.

In a typical year, the resort would be booked for winter by the end of September, but that happened by May in 2020.

“We’ve been turning away a lot of people. This year has been a totally different year. A lot of people didn’t go south, and with insurance issues - you can’t get insurance in the U.S. for COVID-19 — so that was a big part of it as well,” Stockley says.

She says it affected RV tenants in different ways.

“A lot of the people in the park have places in the U.S. and they can’t even get there,” she says.

Island View RV Resort resident manager Lorne Coleman says the Osoyoos-based RV resort is full this winter, much like it has the past few.

“Our waiting list is longer this year. There are a few people in the resort who would normally have gone south, but realized they weren’t going to make it so they booked here,” he says.

The resort has 50 winter sites that are all booked. Coleman believes there is a shortage of supply for winter RV sites that has been noticeable for years, but is especially pronounced this year.

“I’ve been here six years and there are no slow periods, not in the South Okanagan,” he says.

Destination Osoyoos Executive Director Kelley Glazer says the Town of Osoyoos was on a roll with respect to solid bookings for the snowbird population this winter, but the recent upswing in COVID-19 across the country has stifled any prospects for a banner year in winter tourism for the town’s hotels and motels.

“The last two announcements extending the quarantine and limiting travel have actually balanced us out to be the same as last year. We had cancellations after the last two announcements,” Glazer says, referring to extra pandemic protocols introduced by provincial health officer Bonnie Henry in early December and again in early January.

“We had a fairly healthy snowbird population in the first quarter anyway, but were planning on being full. Now it will be just status quo for the first quarter of 2021,”  she says.

Glazer believes without the travel restrictions put in place over the past two months, Osoyoos would be fully booked.

“Those announcements did alert people not to travel interprovincially. Our snowbirds are not generally B.C. residents. They were encouraged not to leave their community and therefore not their province,” she says.

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